WEEK 15: JAGUARS CONFERENCE CALL
Head Coach Gus Bradley
On the strides QB Blake Bortles has made since he became Jacksonville's starter:"Initially, when he came in, he did a really good job for us. [He played] really clean football, completed 70 percent of his passes over three games and did a nice job. And then there was a period of time where, just like a typical rookie, teams kind of challenged him with some different things and some unfortunate plays came up along with his play with the interceptions. But I think he's back now to cleaning that stuff up. He didn't throw an interception in the Giants game last game – he threw one. So, I think he's managing the team like he was similar to what he was in the beginning, and he's learning an awful lot with each experience."
On what to tell a rookie QB going up against a veteran defense that has an aggressive pass rush:"It's a challenge. I think every experience he's had thus far this year has presented a different type of challenge for him. I think our first home game that he started was Pittsburgh, and that was a challenge and thereafter. He has great respect for them. I know we watched them – we watched Baltimore – and boy, their front, their linebackers – they're really talented. This will be a great opportunity for him to learn, just like the other games."
On why the Jaguars released RB Justin Forsett after last season:"I'm a big fan of Justin since my days in Seattle when he was there. I just felt that he was a great person, great in the locker room, and he just had some injuries when he was here, and he struggled with playing time because of that injury. It just really lingered on, and we had some younger guys at the running back spot. I can't say enough good things for him. I'm really excited what's taken place for him out there. But I think the injury was the big situation for us."
On if he regrets letting go of RB Justin Forsett, given his success this year:"No, I think it's more about the person. Just because I know him so well, it's more excitement for him. He's so deserving of it – what he brings to the locker room, what he brings to the team. I am just excited for what he's brought to Baltimore."
On having to go against former Jaguars T Eugene Monroe and ILB Daryl Smith on Sunday:"When I became the head coach, with Daryl Smith, I just got a chance to meet him, because I got hired about a month after the organization made the decision maybe to move on. So, we did bring him in. I had a chance to visit with him. Here's a guy that's our franchise's all-time leading tackler. I heard nothing but great things about him. But I think it was just more that the mentality we wanted to go with [was] younger players. But we knew that he still had some good years in him, and to see him doing really well is good. Now, Eugene … Eugene and Justin [Forsett] were both part of what we were trying to create here, and they had a big influence on that – their leadership and their mentality. And Eugene did a good job as well when he was here. I think with Eugene, the situation was we drafted Luke Joeckel. At the end of the day, we needed draft picks, and we were able to get Brandon Linder, Aaron Colvin [and] Telvin Smith – three guys that are really starting for us because of that trade. So, it sounds like it has helped out both organizations."
On if Jacksonville's defensive red zone percentage is one thing it can hold its hat on this season:"I think we've done some good things in the red zone. I think we've added some free agents to the defensive line along with the current players that we have. I know that with the sacks, I think we're third in the league in sacks, and I think some of that resonates down in the red zone as well. So, we're pleased with our front guys. We do rotate quite a few guys there. We've had some injuries in the back end, but I think some guys have stepped up. We didn't play as well as we had hoped last week against Houston, but the previous weeks before we've been able to get pressure on the quarterback and cause some turnovers. We need to get back into that mode. But still, just the number of points that we're giving up is too many, regardless if it's through turnovers on offense or explosive plays. We're just looking for that consistency now."
On the difficulties of preparing for an offense run by Gary Kubiak:"Knowing coach Kubiak in his time at Houston, and then really what his mindset is – to the run the ball – they're very, very talented up front. Very talented. And what I like about him is he has conviction. I've always told our team it's about a culture of execution. I believe it's a precision league. And that it's not about how much you do, but what you do, and you must do it very well. And when I look at Baltimore's offense, that's what I see – a team that really executes, a team that really operates under that precision; split the front line with their backs. I think the world of him and think the world of how he goes about it."
On if there is anything to why the Jaguars have played well against the AFC North:"I know it's been physical games, really physical games. The Pittsburgh game that was here was a challenging game. It was a close game up until the end of the fourth quarter – we threw a pick-6. And I know with Cincinnati, we fell behind but came back. It's just a high level. We know what we're getting into with the AFC North, how physical a brand of football it is. I know on defense it's like a battle of wills. I know that's how we pose it with our team, that we're going to have to be strong mentally with facing a team like Baltimore."
On what makes the Ravens' special teams units so effective:"Just looking at their return game, I know punt return and what they've given up as far as returns – I think it's 7.5 or something a return – any time you're holding a team under 10, that's very good. So, they have really good coverage units. I'm sure it's a reflection of [Ravens head] coach [John] Harbaugh. It's just the emphasis they put on special teams and the ability to get explosive plays to gain first downs on their return teams is something that jumps out. Overall, [they are] just very talented."
QB Blake Bortles
On what the Jaguars need to do to finish the season on a high note:"I think [we need to] just continue to go out there and get better and compete. We really have a special group of guys, despite the results of the season thus far. Nobody has kind of changed in anything that they do. It's not like guys aren't practicing as hard anymore [or] they're leaving early. Guys come into work every day, they work their tail off, and we look forward to the opportunity to go compete every Sunday. And none of that has changed. That's what's so special, I think, about this group and the opportunity that we get every week to go out there to compete and go make the most of it these last three weeks. We want to go out and really try and continue to get better, improve and definitely end the season on a high note."
On how much he looks up to or compares himself to QB Joe Flacco:"He's awesome. Obviously, he's been really successful in the seven years he's been in the NFL. He's a guy that is obviously similar in stature. [He has a] super-strong arm, he's athletic and can make plays. He's won a Super Bowl and done all kinds of things. He's definitely a really good guy to watch for somebody like me that tries to mimic parts of his game."
On what it's like preparing for the Ravens' aggressive defense:"They do a lot of stuff. Their front seven is extremely physical and relentless, and they get after it. [Elvis] Dumervil leading the league in sacks, and you have [Terrell] Suggs and C.J. Mosley, and all these other guys that are really good playmakers, and they get after it. They're aggressive in what they do, and they definitely pose challenges to quarterbacks."
On if he interacted with LB C.J. Mosley much at all during the pre-draft process:"The parts and stuff I've seen, it looks like he's done an unbelievable job. Obviously, getting a chance to watch him on film these past couple of days, he's playing really well. That's always good to see. I'm glad for him. To be a part of the same rookie class, to see him starting and doing well, I'm definitely happy for him. I had the chance to talk to him when I saw him at some rookie stuff, and he seemed like a really good dude. So, I'm definitely happy for him, and he's a hell of a player."
On the Jaguars, who lead the league in sacks allowed, facing a Ravens' defense that has collected many sacks this season:"It's on all 11 guys. A lot of people want to immediately point the blame at the offensive line, and it's not on them. I'd say half or less than half of [the sacks] are on the offensive line. A lot of it is on me not getting the ball out, not finding the checkdown. It's on receivers sometimes for not looking 'hot' or doing whatever. It's on the whole offense. So, those are things that we're constantly working on correcting. Facing a defense that gets after the passer like Baltimore does, we're going to have to be sharp. I'm going to have to be good in things I do and get rid of the ball sometimes and throw it away and not try and do too much to make an extra play – just live to play another down."
On what people should know about undrafted rookie WR Allen Hurns:"He's been unbelievable. He got the opportunity in OTAs and camp with a lot of guys injured and out, and he made the most of it. He earned himself a starting spot, and it was well-deserved. He's a super-intelligent kid that works really hard day-in and day-out, and he brings his best every day. He's a guy that kind of mentally leads that [wide receivers] room. Cecil [Shorts III] is obviously an older guy that's been around, but Hurns is a guy that's played in [Jaguars offensive coordinator] Jedd Fisch's offense in college. So, he has a really good grasp of it, and it's good for Marquise [Lee] and some of these other guys that are in it for the first time."
On how well he knows WR Kamar Aiken:"Yes, we played together my first year at UCF [Central Florida]. I saw he had a touchdown last week. I'm definitely happy for him. I don't know if I've talked to him in a couple months or so, but I look forward to seeing him, and I'm glad to see him doing well."
On if WR Kamar Aiken has always been a resilient player with potential:"He was part of a really good receiving group at UCF. It never seems to surprise me when UCF guys that go undrafted seem to make a team and find a spot. It's kind of the mentality that we're taught at UCF under [George] O'Leary, and guys kind of leave there with a different mindset than a lot of other guys going into the NFL have. So, it doesn't surprise me at all that he found a home and he's making the best of it."